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Sound of The Catacombs VA

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This is the first release on Midlands based label Catacomb Records, a label run by lovers of stoner/doom/sludge/psychedelia who between them play in various bands on the scene. This impressive compilation is clearly a labour of love from the wide ranging choice of bands on offer through the impressive packaging to the dedication the label have put into the promotion. Overall the quality of the tracks here is highly impressive and gives a well rounded insight into a hugely varied scene.
 
 
First up are Suns of Thunder with “Gimme Some More” and shit the bed if this track doesn’t kick off the whole album in style. This is the riff equivalent of a Chinese firecracker, each new guitar lick exploding with a breakneck urgency. If this is what Swansea has to offer then point me towards the Severn Bridge!!!
 
 
Outburst from Leicester weigh in next with “Primitive”. The sound here is thicker than a house full of Big brother contestants and heavier than one of those fat fucks Channel 4 seem to like making documentaries about. An impressive slice of Sabbath sludge.
 
 
Up next are Obiat with the epic “Farewell to Mankind”. How this band aren’t so much bigger I don’t understand. Flirting with a stoner/doom post Sabbath sound they add a much needed extra element to their sound with their soaring melodies and almost psychedelic grooves.
 
 
I have to be objective about the next band Grifter as I’m in them!!! All I’ll say is if you like a nice cowbell driven groove with some big melodies and Sabbath meets ZZ Top riffing then the track “Slow Boy” may be for you.
 
 
Former St Vitus drummer Armando Acosta is up next with his current band Dirtyred. There are some stylistic similarities here with Vitus but this is very much a different entity. The riffs are big and the doom is there but this tune displays a more blues based groove with some seriously impressive soulful female vocals.
 
 
Godsize from Birmingham take things in a more sinister direction next. Musically this track is bang on the money. Huge Sabbath influenced sludge riffs crush with massive balls. My only criticism here is a question of personal taste in that I’m not a big fan of the screamy style, with some bellicose gut busting vocals this could be world beating.
 
 
Traditional doom next from yanks Spacecharge with “In Time”. For me this is one of the weaker tracks on the album. This rarely lifts above a plod and although it has a decent enough melody the production really lets this track down by being thinner than a gnats fart. With a crushing production this might be a band to take note of.
 
 
This is more like it, Abdullah rip their kit off and streak through the middle of this album with the balls out doom thrash of “Long Gone”. Like Motorhead teabagging Pentagram this tune kicks with some awesome playing and a flickknife attitude.
 
 
Brummie blues doomsters Aluna up next with “Higher”, one of the stronger tracks on the album. Like St Vitus jamming some West Coast psychedelia this is fantastic stuff. Great crushing riffs back up the mellow female vocals…an unlikely mix that works. Production wise this lacks slightly with a weak drum sound but this has been rectified on the new EP. Definitely ones to watch!!!
 
 
Chris from taint abandons his bass and picks up the sticks next with his band Black Cesar. This is raw punk influenced instrumental sludge. “Freerange Woman” pretty much clamps its pitbull jaws round your knackers and doesn’t let go from start to finish. I can’t help thinking that it needs a little more, maybe I’m missing the point but vocals here would lift this into another level.
 
 
More Brummies I Am Colossus are up next with “Revelations”. This is probably my least favourite track on the album, again purely due to taste. Musically this is fairly standard doom death. Sure it’s astoundingly heavy but it doesn’t really seem to go anywhere and the whole thing is let down by some totally incomprehensible wounded dog vocals. Someone will dig this though.
 
 
My favourite up next. Sonic Lord’s “Come Back Down Again” hits all the right marks. Fucking huge riffs rub their arse in your face while the sandpaper vocals breath their cider stinking breath all over this track. A masterpiece. Check out their “Trawling Through Sludge” 7″ on Catacomb.
 
 
Gonga are already players on the scene but “Sentinal” displays a marked shift from their earlier works while staying impressively heavy but adding a progressive, almost folky air to the proceedings. A strong taste of what to expect from their mightily impressive Transmigration album.
 
 
“Flight of the Bitch” by The Harold Wartooth brings us back to earth with some tasty stoner riffing. It isn’t hugely original stuff but has enough attitude to cut through.
 
 
I’m not sure what to make of Queen Elephantine and “Sea Goat”. Electric Wizard style doom gives way to a bizarre and abstract mid section complete with timpanies and random noises. Perhaps if the production wasn’t so muddy and didn’t sound like they were playing in the garage next door this would make more sense.
 
 
UK stoners El Topo step up with “Let’s Ride” it ticks all the right boxes for stoner rock…the guitars are suitably fuzzy and it rocks along but it’s a bit of a by numbers kind of track and probably the least memorable offering on this compilation.
 
 
Things end on a high with Mos Generator’s “On The eve”. This is more fucking like it. This songs builds into an epic from an understated intro though some truly rolling riffs and mighty melodies. I hear some Monster Magnet in here and for me that’s no bad thing.
 
 
There you have it. Any compilation will divide opinion and people will always bemoan the lack of certain bands but as an overall piece of work this is about as good as it gets. Every stoner/doom/sludge fan out there would do well to get hold of a copy of this.
 
 
- Sleeping Shaman